Christchurch Oxford

Posted: November 14, 2019 in Oxfordshire, UK

I was recently fortunate to spend a few days at a meeting at Christchurch College in Oxford.

Founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII, Christchurch is one of the largest and well-known colleges within the University of Oxford. Is an architecturally attractive building which is dominated by Tom Tower, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and which overlooks Tom Quad containing both the college chapel and great dining hall.

Thomas Hardy was born in 1769 and entered the Navy in 1781 as a captain’s servant. However, he left Naval service the following year and went back to school. He rejoined the Navy in 1790 as a midshipman and served in the Mediterranean. By 1796 he had obtained the rank of first lieutenant in HMS Minerve. This was the flagship of Commodore Horatio Nelson and the first time that Hardy had met the man who was to become his lifelong friend. Harding was captured following a battle with the Spanish while serving as a prize master but was quickly exchanged for the captain of the price ship. In 1797 as commander of HMS Mutine, he took part in the Battle of the Nile and was promoted to captain. He transferred to HMS Vanguard, at that time Nelson’s flagship. Two years later he was appointed as captain of HMS Princess Charlotte and returned to England. The following year he was appointed to HMS San Josef and departed for the Baltic, but soon transferred to take up the role of flag captain on Nelson’s HMS St George. Following the Battle of Copenhagen, Hardy served as flag captain to Admiral Charles Pole. Taking command of HMS Amphion the following year, he returned to Portsmouth where he found Nelson waiting to go to the Mediterranean. Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, was not ready to sail and so Nelson transferred his flag to HMS Amphion and he and Hardy set off a Gibraltar. They eventually transferred to Victory the following year. In September 1805, he sailed for Cadiz in Spain and the Battle of Trafalgar. During the battle, Nelson was shot by a sniper and Hardy held his dying body. The Admiral asked Hardy how the battle had gone and then instructed him to take care of Lady Hamilton. His final request was ‘kiss me Hardy’ and his lifelong friend obliged. Nelson died shortly afterwards. Hardy was created a baronet, transferred to HMS Triumph and sailed for North America. Transferring into HMS Barfleur, he was flag captain to Sir George Cranfield Berkeley, his father-in-law. In 1815 he was awarded the Knight Cmdr of the order of Bath and the following year was promoted Commodore and commander-in-chief of the South America station. In 1825 he was appointed Rear Admiral and served in Portugal and the Channel fleet. In 1830 he became first Lord of the Navy and was a strong promoter of the introduction of steamships. He resigned in 1834 and became governor of Greenwich Hospital, was promoted Vice-Admiral in 1837 and died at the hospital in 1839. He is buried in the hospital grounds.

The statue and monument are in the chapel at Greenwich Naval College.

Norfolk Skies

Posted: November 12, 2019 in Landscape, Natural History

I recently took a trip to Norfolk and got some great photos of the evening skies.

Corn Bunting

Some wildlife pictures from our recent trip to the West Country

Corridor under chapel leading to the skittle alley

In a cellar under the Chapel is a skittle alley. Created in the 1860s to help entertain the retired seaman who lived there. The balls used were practice canon balls.

You can still use it today and Keith and I had a game whilst we were there, which Keith won with a strike (some people are just lucky!).

The Chapel was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was redecorated in 1779 following a major fire.

The hall was originally designed to be the dining room of the home for retired seaman founded on the site by Queen Mary in 1694, but soon became reserved as a place for ceremonial occasions. The painting took 19 years (1707 -1726) and was overseen by James Thornhill. The work includes pictures of the 3 monarchs: Queen Anne, who had built the Hospital; William and Mary, whose reign saw the beginning of the painted hall project and George I in whose reign it was completed. In fact, 2 other monarchs can also be seen as Princes George (later George II) and William (later William IV) are shown in the family group surrounding George I. It was likely with the political changes that the design was changed on a number of occasions during the painting. The theme is ‘Triumph of Peace and Liberty over tyranny’.

The hall was used for many important events including the lying-in-state of Nelson after the Battle of Trafalgar. The queues are reputed to have stretched for miles.

When the Hospital closed and the Royal Naval College took over, the hall was used as a dining room for the officer cadets until the college moved in 1997. It is now maintained by a charitable trust and the Hall reopened in 2017 following a two-year refurbishment project. During this remains of the old Tudor palace at Greenwich were discovered below the hall

Keith and I took a trip to Greenwich recently to visit the Old Naval College.

The Naval College was built around 1700 as a home for retired and destitute seaman from the navy. However despite its grand surroundings life was pretty rough and ready in the college. It also included a specialist hospital for treating sick or injured seaman. The buildings were designed by sir Christopher Wren but he had to change his design to allow for there to be a river view from the Queens house in the adjacent palace of Greenwich.


The design had to incorpaorate an uninterupted view of the river from the Queens house (seen between the two wings)

The design had to incorporate an uninterupted view of the river from the Queens house (seen between the two wings)


The seaman’s home closed in 1869 and the buildings passed to the Royal Navy to use as a training college. They occupied the site until 1998, when it passed to a trust charged with preserving the buildings. The current tenants of the site are the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music.

Before going to the meeting of the local RSPB group, Keith and I had a walk along the riverfront at Gravesend. Good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank along with a little Egret.

Naturelog: Minsmere

Posted: November 1, 2019 in Birds, Mammals, Natural History, Norfolk, UK

A Saturday morning saw Keith and I on our way to the RSPB reserve at Minsmere with the Gravesend RSPB group. Minsmere is one of the star RSPB reserves in the UK, located on the Suffolk coast. The weather forecast wasn’t great but Minsmere always has a surprise or two.

North Fields
Ring Ouzel
Photo by Stefan Berndtsson ( )

Arriving we were told of two Ring Ouzels near North hide. There has been quite a passage of this highland nesting thrush this autumn, so we headed off to see if we could find them. it took a while but eventually, we saw one fly and I found that or another one perched in a bush (sadly head-view only) and then another flight view. We continued to wait but there were no further sightings and we decided to move on.

Down on the beach, we found Stonechat and a Dartford Warbler and as we walked back into the reserve, we had a collection of Egret species -A Bittern and 2 Great White Egrets to go with the commoner Grey Heron and Little Egret). By contrast, wading birds were very low in number.

At Island Mere we were watching the Marsh Harriers when someone spotted an Otter, which swam across the Mere in front of us.

Distant picture of Otter on the far side of Mere

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Bittern [sp] (Botaurus stellaris)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Egret [sp] (Ardea alba)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Hobby [sp] (Falco subbuteo)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Marsh Tit [sp] (Poecile palustris)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Dartford Warbler [sp] (Sylvia undata)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Ring Ouzel [sp] (Turdus torquatus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Redwing [sp] (Turdus iliacus)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
Common Linnet [sp] (Linaria cannabina)